written transcription of piano music

10 posts / 0 new
Last post
#1 9 January, 2012 - 12:50
Joined: 6 years 5 months ago

written transcription of piano music

I'm interested in the ability to look at a score of piano music and then write it out from memory. If this ability can be developed, it might be applied to performance, but right now my concern is to see to what degree the demonstration of score memory, by writing it out with the score no longer present, can be developed. Take for example this opening from a Mozart sonata:


Although there are perhaps 200 notes in the example, plus a variety of rhythmic values for notes and rests, phrasings, and articulations, surely there must be a way to reduce all this information so that it can be easily memorized.

9 January, 2012 - 13:02
Joined: 6 years 5 months ago

(Please ignore — trying to figure out how to delete this post, in which I apologized for the previous post's small image, which I managed to fix.)

9 January, 2012 - 17:27
Joined: 6 years 3 months ago

Hi Joelrw. This is interesting challange, but it will not much difficult. We might build a system for music note. First, could you list out all the different notes in a concert?

10 January, 2012 - 07:20
Joined: 6 years 5 months ago

All the different notes — you mean pitches? I guess we could start by limiting them to four octaves, from the C two octaves below middle C to the C two octaves above it. There are twelve notes in an octave: C, C# (or Db), D, D# (or Eb), E, F, F# (or Gb), G, G# (or Ab), A, A# (or Bb), and B.

Musicians are going to want to use their knowledge to help in the process (e.g., by recognizing arpeggios, scale lines, repeating patterns, etc.).

10 January, 2012 - 20:53
Joined: 6 years 7 months ago

Joelrw - memorising the music for performance is different to memorising the notes to write out the score. When you play a piece of music, muscle memory is involved as well as aural memory.

I would suggest you study the score and understand the harmony. Much of this music is
arpeggiated chords - for example look at the treble clef of the fifth measure - the notes are
F C F A C - the notes of the F major chord. No need to memorise each note, just the fact that an F major chord is played. The left hand (bass clef) has a similar alternation pattern.

Do a Google search on "How to memorise piano music" for more tips.

11 January, 2012 - 03:02
Joined: 6 years 3 months ago

Hi Joelrw. As your explanation here, you can assign these 12 notes by Dominic system or Alphabet system (regarding special notes as C#, D#.. you can assign any thing you like. Maybe action, adjective or person start with C, D...). Then you can use the Journey to store these notes. I think it will help you to write out the music pieces.

Ofcourse, to be able write down the note after hearing the music needs some talents or practice and i don't know much about this area.

13 January, 2012 - 06:01
Joined: 6 years 5 months ago

ozcaveman: I'm aware of the difference between written transcription and memorization for performance. The latter task is not difficult for me — I'm given several full piano recitals, all memorized. I'm aware of all the musical signposts, which are useful in both types of memorization. But my interest right now is not in performance, only in written transcription. I don't know if duyhoa83's suggestions will work or not, given the complexity of the task and the abandonment of musical knowledge that the approach implies.

The next step seems clear, however: I'm going to practice this type of memorization every day for 15-30 minutes, see how quick my improvement is, and try to assess what works and what doesn't.

12 October, 2012 - 11:05
Joined: 5 years 1 month ago

If you can imagine yourself playing it, and do enough ear training to hear in your mind what the piece will sound like, the whole project will be much more approachable. Practicing sight singing exercises for about 100 hours would be a good start. Practicing familiar piano pieces you already know, away from the piano in your mind, as you follow the printed music, is another step. Then practicing doing this with a brand new simple piece you've never seen before.

22 December, 2013 - 20:31
Joined: 3 years 11 months ago

This is a hard task, professional would do it easily. Music transcription is very interesting for music lovers. Like here people love to share their work and experience doing it.

6 January, 2014 - 19:25
Joined: 4 years 8 months ago

Dear Joelrw,

How has the memorizing gone?

I have done quite a bit of piano playing myself, although primarily on the improvisation side, with jazz fake-books and the like.

Playing some sheet music briefly at a family reunion this year, I realized that I have an enormously greater amount of patience for the black-ants and the gridiron with my 29 years of wisdom, since I abandoned sheet music in my teens.

So I'm looking forward to going back to sheet music sometime, and your query may give me the opportunity. Let's take a look at these thirteen bars.

My first thought was that the LH is quite patterned, so that's a great place to start. Except for measure 8, it's all two-note chords or triads, the triads being CM in 3rd position, GM~1P, G7 without the 3rd.

So if the memory locus is usually on the measure for the LH, then the left hand could have be constructed with images featuring aspects for:
- regular rhythm (vs a measure of rest)
- the root note of chords being played
- things left out like the 3rd in the G7
But still, it is difficult to develop this as a canonical deterministic transcription because of irregulars like the 8th and 13th measures.

I think an efficient system would have to take advantage of the symmetries in the music, which are chosen purposefully to create a symmetric harmonious experience for the listener.

Such a system may have multiple parallel paths, which can be overlayed. I imagine a system of actually parallel memory paths, like a swimming pool. After keeping my head down memorizing each one, I can pick my head up and look to the side and see how my buddy the next lane over is doing, and see how the information in the parallel paths interacts temporally.

One track might be the a sequence of chord changes. Another track the rhythm in the LH, and its chord position/number of notes. A third, most complex track, might be the lead melody.

The LH is almost done at this point. The RH can be approached by a brute force method of naming note-length/ diatonic scale combinations, which is horrendous. But the only other alternative to me seems the prior naming and "pegging" of a broad broad variety of flourishes and melodic elements, basically mining a Hanon book, etc.

Jdg123's point about engaging one's inner MIDI-player is a very good one though, especially for the melody. It's possible that mnemonic memorization of melodic elements might be abandoned altogether, leaving just the repetitive aspects of the LH amenable to mnemonic techniques.

How's that as an inventory of the tasks at hand?


Download our free ebook! Just click the "Sign up" button below to create an account, and we'll send you a free ebook with tips on how to get started.

Related content: